Pippa Funnell’s record third win in the showpiece class at the Dodson & Horrell Chatsworth International Horse Trials was clearly popular as a huge crowd gathered around the Devonshire arena to watch the Duchess of Devonshire present her with the Chatsworth Trophy.
With the luxury of the leading dressage score (of 38.5) and a clear showjumping round, Pippa was able to ride a measured cross-country round on Sandman 7 and still have enough in hand to win the Dodson & Horrell Challenge CIC3*.
She was pushed to the wire by last year’s winner, the competitive Irish rider Sarah Ennis on Horseware Stellor Rebound, who was quicker across country but did not start with such an advantage after the first two phases and had to settle for second place.
Emily King, 19, took third place on Brookleigh, having incurred 14 cross-country time penalties – if she hadn’t hit the first showjumping rail, she would have won – and collected the trophy for best under-25 rider and a cheque from the Horse Trials Support Group.
However, Emily, whose mother, Mary, won this class back in 2007, was pleased to lay the ghost of last year when she was well placed on Brookleigh only to retire on the cross-country and she said this run had boosted their confidence.
The gutsy Australian rider Paul Tapner finished fourth on Prince Mayo and gave it his best shot on his other two rides, but he was unseated from Yogi Bear and had a run-out in the water with Vanir Kamira.
Funnell, a three-time winner of Badminton and a dual European champion, was jubilant, and revealed that she had been dithering about whether to run Sandman 7 across country because he is due to go to Bramham in a few weeks’ time. With her mother, Jenny Nolan, urging her on, Pippa consulted her showjumper husband William and British team coach Yogi Briesner and they told her to run, but without looking at her stopwatch.
“I felt he was ready but it’s so difficult in this circumstance [when you’re in the lead with a young horse] to know what is best because you can either progress the horse or set him back,” explained Pippa. “It was a gamble, but it’s paid off and I’m so delighted because he is a special horse to our family.”
The brilliant New Zealand rider Andrew Nicholson won both the advanced classes, on new ride Perfect Stranger and Jet Set lV, one of his favourite horses. But the veteran Kiwi had an incident-packed day, managing to fall off Ulysses in both the showjumping and cross-country phases.
Huge crowds poured into the glorious parkland at Chatsworth during the weekend to enjoy the great range of entertainment on offer, with the scurry driving, Sheep Show, Pony Club mounted games and Newfoundland rescue dogs proving particular hits.
Event director Patricia Clifton declared she was thrilled with the weekend. “I couldn’t believe the great crowds pouring in,” she said. “It’s testament both to the huge amount of work that the whole team does behind the scenes and to the wonderful setting and exciting competition that Chatsworth provides. It’s been another very happy weekend.”